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I have received a letter from Berkheimer stating that what was reported on my Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Return differs from what I reported to them. I have questions on why this took place, they are: Why did the state provide this to my tax collector? Why should my state and local earnings match? And what do I do now?
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Why can the state provide this information to your firm up to two years after filing your state return?
Part of the agreements between the PA Dept. of Revenue and the PA Dept. of Education requires that the Dept. of Revenue provide each school district with an annual report that identifies the individuals that utilized their unique “school code” when they filed their state return, and the income amount that was reported. These reports are used to verify that each school district is receiving all of the taxes due it, and is also utilized to determine funding levels for the districts. This annual report is released approximately 15 months AFTER the taxpayer was required to file their state return. For example, the PA-40 form for 2015 was due on 04/15/16, the Dept. of Revenue then released the report described above in or around July 2017.
Why should my local earnings match my state earnings?
In 2003, ACT 166 passed the Pennsylvania Legislature and made the definitions of “earned income” and “net profits” identical for both local and state taxation purposes. The change was implemented to help eliminate the confusion that had existed to that point with what was taxable to each. By implementing the change, it became easier for taxpayers and preparers alike to know exactly what was to be reported to their local collector. The definitions are based on state’s which are found in the Tax Reform Code of 1971”. Based on ACT 166 there is only one source of earned income that is not taxed by both. That income source is “Clergy Housing Allowances” which are taxed by the state, but not locally.
So for 2003 forward, what appears on a taxpayers PA-40 form as taxable earnings should also be reported on the local return.
What should I do now?
First – Don’t panic!! There are a few reasons that there could be a legitimate reason for the discrepancy, some that result in no additional tax due and others that may. The purpose of the letter is to try to determine if one exists and if it does, to allow you, the taxpayer, to tell us so. Some of the reasons that they do not match are as follows:
The following reasons are taxable:
- You took a distribution from a Retirement account (IRA, Roth IRA, 401k, 403K) that was considered to be an “Early Distribution” for which an exception did not exist. Whether the distribution is considered an early distribution or not can be determined by looking at the 1099-R for the year in question and looking for a Code of 1 in box 7. If there is Code 1 in box 7, the distribution is considered to have been taken prior to the legal age to do so without penalty (59 ½ yrs. of age). If you have done so, you are taxed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania based on the Cost Recovery method (Total distribution – your contributions to the plan = taxable income). The state considers the portion taken attributed to what your employer contributed to your plan and the gain on the deposits made, as “earned income” for state tax purposes. Since it is considered taxable to PA, it is to be included as income locally as well. If the code in Box 7 is a 2, the distribution may be taxable. The taxability of the distribution is dependent on your plan’s retirement rules. You will need to provide us with the basis for the withdrawal prior to age 59 ½ years of age, so it can be researched and a determination on taxability rendered.
- You utilized the Local Wage Box on your W-2, instead of the State wage box. There are a number of reasons that prior to tax year 2013, that your employer may not have withheld on all of your taxable state wages. So if you relied on the Local box when filing and your State wages were higher, that is where the discrepancy came from. You are taxable on your full taxable wages for each year you are a resident of the jurisdiction(s) tax is levied for.
If you do find that you owe the taxes or a portion of those shown on the letter you can submit the payment shown or if you need time to pay, contact us to establish a payment plan to do so.
The following reasons are NOT taxable and you simply need to provide explanation to their origin.
- You had income from SUB-CHAPTER S corporation(s). This type of income is considered to be Investment income which is taxable as such to PA, but is not taxable locally. Unfortunately, it is reported on the PA-40 form in the same location as Net Profits earned from taxable business activities.
- You received income from the lease of your property to a Marcellus Shale drilling operation or for an easement for use of a portion of your property for a similar operation. Unless you are taking an active role in the exploration process, this income is NOT earned income and is also considered investment income. Unfortunately it too is reported on the same line as taxable income to the state and then reported to us as such.
- You reported your spouse’s income on the PA-40 form as part of the joint filing and we do not have them connected to your social security number on our system. Since the PA-40 form is a joint return (both incomes combined for filing purposes), the income reported to us by the PA Department of Revenue it is associated with the 1st social security number on the state return. So if we do not have your social security number associated with your spouses on our files, it is assumed to all be your income. If this is the case you simply need to provide us their information so that we can verify that the income and payments received equal that of the state report.
- You resided in the named school district for only a portion of the year. The state reports you full income based on the school district code used when you file the return at year end, so all is attributed to the area named. If this is the case you may have filed for a portion of the year with another tax collector and that information is not shared between collectors, so there is no way to verify that without asking for the explanation of the difference.
- You did not live in the named school district at all for the year in question, but did move there in a subsequent year. This is another quirk of how the state tracks its taxpayers. If you live in School District XYZ in 2012 and moved to School District ABC in 2013, when your 2013 return is entered into the state’s system your school district for the prior year(s) on file are changed to reflect where you live currently. This results in you appearing to have resided in the current school district for the prior year as well, and that is the year being reviewed in this process.
- You worked in the City of Philadelphia and had city wage tax withheld on your wages and failed to file the annual return with your tax administrator showing that the taxes paid there covered your local tax liability. If this is case, it will appear that you reported no income and/or taxes paid when the comparison is done. If this is the case you simply need to file for the year in question showing that is the case.
In each of the 6 scenarios listed above, you simply need to provide us with the appropriate explanation and necessary supporting document so that we can update our records accordingly.
Pennsylvania Personal Income Tax Guide (PIT) – Find out what is taxable and what is not taxable.
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